Erlin rolls through six innings to win in return
Venable's 20th HR provides insurance; Guzman also homers
PHOENIX -- It wasn't so much an edict or a challenge that Padres manager Bud Black offered Tuesday when he talked about rookie pitcher Robbie Erlin, though it sort of sounded like one.
"It's time for Robbie to make a statement as a Major League pitcher," said Black, who spoke about the opportunity for young players, like Erlin, to step up and shine this time of the season.
Erlin did just that Wednesday night, allowing one run over six innings as the Padres pulled away late for a 5-1 victory over the D-backs in front of a crowd of 20,578 at Chase Field.
"He pitched well and his mix of pitches came into play," Black said. "I thought the fastball at the top of the zone had some carry to it. His hand speed was good. It was good to see Robbie carry his fastball."
The Padres, who dropped the first two games of the series, won on getaway day behind Erlin's arm and some late thunder by Will Venable and Jesus Guzman, who each drilled home runs off of former Padres All-Star closer Heath Bell in the eighth inning.
But the story was the 22-year-old Erlin, a left-hander who had mixed results in his first four Major League starts before Wednesday.
"I thought it was big that he got ahead like he did, that really helped," said Padres catcher Nick Hundley. "I thought he was really aggressive with his fastball. He's got enough life to beat people."
And some pretty good secondary pitches to keep them off-balance, as Erlin (2-2) allowed six hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
"I'm really trying to keep it simple; throw strikes with four pitches," Erlin said. "But it comes down to executing. Executing [pitches] gets outs."
And what of pitching under a microscope, knowing that each of the starts he makes will weigh heavily on the Padres as they go about trying to build a rotation this winter?
"Executing ... and you try not to think of anything else," Erlin said.
Erlin ran into trouble in the sixth inning, but only after getting two quick outs. He walked Eric Chavez and allowed a single to Aaron Hill. Chavez looked like he was going to stop at second base on Hill's single but instead raced to third base when left fielder Guzman didn't get to the ball quick enough.
That play would loom large as Willie Bloomquist lined a single into right field for a run. Erlin managed to get out of the inning without further damage, inducing a comebacker from Gerardo Parra for the third out.
"That was a battle, but he made some pitches there," Black said of the sequence to Parra.
The Padres (60-73) didn't give Erlin a lot of offensive backing -- not until he was out of the game, at least -- but they did jump on D-backs pitcher Wade Miley for two runs in the first inning.
Chris Denorfia singled to start the game and advanced to third base on Venable's double. Two outs later, Guzman singled to right field to drive in a run.
"Really the worst one was the one to Venable, I thought it was maybe up a little bit, but I was behind in the count and tried to throw a strike," Miley said. "It was away on the black a little bit. He did a good job of hitting it."
The Padres wouldn't score again until the eighth inning, as Miley (9-9) settled down after that difficult first inning. He allowed just the two runs on seven hits with one walk and five strikeouts in seven innings.
"They are a very aggressive team and he got behind early and had to come over the plate in the first inning," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Miley. "He made adjustments and started to throw his pitches better after that. He battled through seven innings."
After Miley was gone, the Padres scored three runs in the eighth. Venable, who had two hits and knocked in three runs, raising his average to .390 this month, went up and drove a breaking ball from Bell into the right-field seats. Guzman followed with a long home run to left-center, one of the deepest parts of the ballpark.
"Will is doing a good job of capitalizing on the high breaking ball. He's not missing it. Pitches that are up, when guys square them up, it's a damage pitch," Black said.